Not everyone is a good time manager. When one of my three children started elementary school, she was unfocused and couldn’t complete her tasks. Her kindergarten teacher pointed this out but didn’t offer a solution to our child’s problem.

This was in 1990. Hopefully, understanding the different learning traits of children have improved a bit since then. But, children are still slipping through the “learning cracks.”

Poor time management kept our daughter from doing well also in first grade. We were getting frustrated, not only with our child, but more so with her teachers. Neither her K-Garten nor her first grade teacher seemed to have a solution or any good advice, but both were quick to point out the problem.

I didn’t want to take my anger out on our six-year-old. Just a few months earlier she had surgery to correct her “Lazy Eye.” We were all joyful over her improved vision. Everything seemed hopeful until she started school.

 I shared our daughter’s learning problem with friends at church. Finally, about midway through that year a teacher from our church called me and suggested I have her checked for Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) by a pediatrician. I’d never heard of it.

Still though, I made the appointment and scooped up an ample supply of her unfinished desk work to take with us to the appt. The pediatrician was well qualified and had been practicing for at least twenty years. I felt I could trust his judgement. I knew something needed to change but didn’t know what. And, in the end, his advice made sense to me.

He believed my daughter would be more focused by taking a low dose of Ritalin.  I immediately started her on one pill in the morning and the difference was night and day. She was more engaged and became a better task-oriented student.

I kept her on Ritalin all through to about the ninth grade. That was when she became less and less of a “happy camper” about taking the prescription. So, after that year, I pretty much let it go. It was too much of a struggle. She went on to participate in high school band and played several instruments. And graduated on time with her friends. We were ecstatic over what she (and we) had accomplished during her twelve years of school. And we were glad to bring that part of it to a close.

Recognizing A Problem and Fixing It

If I had to do it over again, I still would take the same path I took in listening to a seasoned pediatrician. And take his or her advice. Recognizing that my child had a learning issue and yet doing nothing about solving it was and still is unacceptable to me.

 A lot of people don’t like putting their child on Ritalin. Perhaps because of fear there might be long term affects. I’ve asked two different neurologists at different times if there are any effects of Ritalin or similar medication. Both told me that there are no long-term side effects of taking this type of medication. The pill “flushes” out of the child’s system within a few hours and leaves no residue. It’s good for about two hours or so. Then that’s it.

A prescribed dosage of a proven medication for ADD/ADHD is far better than letting your child start their school day with cola loaded with caffeine and sugar. When the sugar “high” wears off your child will “crash” in the middle of an important test or some other class time. And besides that, just how much caffeine and / or sugar does a child need in the morning anyway?

I believe a child only has a few years to get settled into a positive school routine, whether it’s in a regular classroom or at home. If a child becomes overwhelmed with frustration during those early years it may preset them to become school dropouts during their teen years.

At least that’s what I saw take place with my oldest brother Gene. He may have had ADD. All during his early schooling he was often called lazy or worse by teachers that then influenced our parents to think negatively about him as well. Gene was always behind in his schoolwork.

In Gene’s teen years he said he wasn’t going back to school. In fact, he said this multiple time. Finally, my strong-willed petite mother stood up to his 5’11’’ frame and told him, “Go to school or get a job!” Since he had no car, he got on the school bus the next day.

My oldest sister Carol often did his homework for him. They were a year apart but spent most of their school years being in the same grade. Both Gene and Carol graduated high school in 1965. So, this was way before learning disabilities were discussed at parent-teacher conferences.

After graduating high school Gene wanted to attend our local technical school and study TV repair. No one thought he would understand it, but he attended anyway.

Gene made the Honor Roll that year and went on to Greenville, SC Technical School for the second year of TV repair. After graduation he worked in that career field until circuit boards were used in TV’s. From there he became a tool-and-die maker.

He had a great mind, but he only wanted to learn what interested him. He was self-taught on playing his guitar, played his trumpet in band all through high school.

Later when our parents built their 5,000 sq. ft warehouse, they wisely hired Gene. In the building phase of it he designed the warehouse floor plan by adding multiple rows of metal shelving separated by wide aisles and designed where the best place to add a loading dock would be. They went with his plan. And it was never changed.

 Gene had learned basic carpentry skills in our high school shop class. He was good at “rough carpentry” to. And, his carpentry skills were utilized in the warehouse often. And he also fixed basic electrical problems there also.

Gene was also a master small-scale wood carver. I have one of his special wood carvings sitting on display in my living room. It’s a mountain man killing a bear with a knife. It’s about 8” X 8” and all carved from one piece of cherry.

I’ve also struggled with focusing issues, though not as bad as Gene’s were. That is probably what’s behind my lifetime caffeine addiction. I was in my teens when I had coffee for the first time. I thought then it must be a drink from “the gods.” And I still think of coffee that same way.

When I went to college in my mid-forties, I took Ginkgo tablets to stay alert during night school. I had seen ginkgo advertised for mental alertness. So, I decided to try it. Plus, I was weary of drinking vending machine coffee at 6:00 pm. Ginkgo does work for mental alertness. I still take it on and off.  But I wouldn’t give it to a child. After all, how much should a developing child take?  

The important thing is to recognize that you or your child has a learning problem. Then go about fixing it in a logical and proven way. Start by seeking medical advice.

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